Pioneer living lessons on the Eastern plains | TheFencePost.com
YOUR AD HERE »

Pioneer living lessons on the Eastern plains

Julie JacobsonDaniel Philippi and Chris Castillo building Lincoln log houses.

Buy Photo

The Prairie Heritage Arts Association of Burlington, Colo., hosts an after school enrichment class called Pioneer Living every Wednesday afternoon for children ages 8-10 at the Old Town Museum Complex.

I had first heard of the after-school program while substitute teaching at the elementary school, so as an interested parent of 8- and 12-year-old boys, and someone who had never had the opportunity to spin and make my own yarn, I was excited to have the opportunity to sit in and learn the process.

I crashed the session recently, sitting alongside nine children from Burlington in the West end of Old Town. When I came in, most were already acquainting themselves with the materials for the class. A large bag of unwashed fleece was emptied on to the floor, carding tools were distributed, and assortments of three different kinds of foot powered spinning wheels were being gingerly handled. Some brightly colored dyed wool on hand spindles with flashing CDs made it all very attractive to us. The children fired questions, excitedly grabbing and feeling, spinning and pulling.



Bev Vavra, Barbara Rush and guest Billie Hinkhouse took turns answering the questions, then slowed the pace down a bit with Barbara’s show and feel display of different types of animal fleece and hair from around the world. The children and I learned about fibers, and why some shrink or mat and why some are better than others for clothes. The kids talked about how hard it must be to shear the sheep and get it all in one piece. Arissa Boyd said she “Had never thought it could come in all one piece. Kinda like a coat.” This particular coat had come from one of Barb’s Wendsleydale sheep.

When the three women walked them through a hands-on demonstration of how to wash fleece, the kids all marveled at how different it was after they put it in hot water for a while, and how clean it got with just water. They put their damp fleece gobs on paper-towels, and then proceeded to learn how to card the already dried fleece from another bag. I watched the kids, and then tried my hand at it when one child moved on to spinning with Billie. It was surprisingly relaxing and the more I did, the more the kids did, the girls sat in a circle, visiting and helped each other, repeating the instructions Bev had given them earlier. Billie took each child next to her, and while they were all interested in seeing how fast the wheel could go, she eventually got them to set a rhythm with their foot and all nine got to spin their freshly carded fleece into yarn. The kids were fully engaged for an hour and a half.



When each of them got through with their fleece, they found other things to do in the hands-on museum at Old Town. Denisse Enriquez is 8 years old, and she volunteers to me that last weeks class was her favorite so far. “Quilting is my favorite.” She showed me a carding board scratch, and I showed her my small cuts on my knuckles, which we both agree are worth it. She said “It would have been hard to be a kid back in pioneer times. They had almost no clothes at all. They only had work and school clothes, and Sunday clothes.”

Evelyn Arrando commented further while she worked at her wheel with Barb’s assistance. “Some people think living in pioneer times would have been boring, but I don’t think so. It’s neat to make something from nothing. Doing this makes me thankful for what I have today.”

I am admittedly jaded, a substitute teacher with two boys, I seldom get to see that sensitive and thoughtful side of them. To hear the third-grade girls exchange thankfulness, I admit to having to hold back a tear and a big grin. The two boys in the class were building Lincoln log houses on the floor, I asked each of them what they enjoyed the most about the afternoon enrichment classes, Danny Philippi said, “My favorite part is getting the wheel set up and keeping it going. How it works is like this, when the fleece gets twisted, it gets stronger.” He then instructed me on how to properly wash, card and finally spin the fleece. I could swear it was word for word from our instructions given earlier by Bev Vavra.

Chris Castillo was intently working on his corrals and house when I asked him what he liked about the afternoons with Pioneer Living, and he said “Some old toys are better than Nintendo,” and with that, he went back to quietly building. Again, the holding back, as I wanted to hug him!

Back at the spinning wheel Paola Enriquez was patiently working on her fleece. “The carding part makes me feel good, except when you scratch yourself. We washed wool earlier and it was really dirty, but it looks a lot better now. The sweaters we could make from it would take a lot of time (to spin it) and then knit it or sew it into something, but it would be worth it and it would be warm.” An older sibling arrived a few minutes into the class, but intently sat on the outside, and then couldn’t help herself and was involved as the rest of the children.

I asked Diana Enriquez while she was concentrating on separating her fleece what her favorite part was she said, with a spark in her eye “Spinning the wheel and making wool fleece into yarn. It’s really cool.” Ah, to be cool to a 12-year-old!

Even grown-ups enjoy the time, and get something out of it; Billie Hinkhouse said “You learn new ways to do old things and shortcuts when you work with kids. This is a fun age.” Barb Rush told me that this was really how Prairie Heritage Arts Association got started. “A few ladies wanted to learn how to spin and weave, and they couldn’t find anyone to teach classes, so we taught ourselves.” Everything from buying the sheep, care of them, sheering and processing the fibers into yarn and into projects.

Now, Prairie Heritage Arts Association’s passion is passing that on. Bev Vavra is a quiet but powerful person; the kids are magnetized when she speaks with them. When she explained the next week’s events, the kids all bubbled with excitement as they snacked on cookies and visited with the ladies.

Even in the age of technology, where our 8-year-olds do a better job of programming the remote than we can, it is really refreshing to see children excited about learning about the past, and making those thoughtful comparisons.

Besides spinning fleece, one lesson I learned that afternoon was that anytime you can take the opportunity to pass enthusiasm on, it renews something in you too.

If you would like more information about the Old Town Museum Complex, Prairie Heritage Arts Association or the Pioneer Living after school enrichment program, please contact Bev Vavra at (719) 346-8963.

The Prairie Heritage Arts Association of Burlington, Colo., hosts an after school enrichment class called Pioneer Living every Wednesday afternoon for children ages 8-10 at the Old Town Museum Complex.

I had first heard of the after-school program while substitute teaching at the elementary school, so as an interested parent of 8- and 12-year-old boys, and someone who had never had the opportunity to spin and make my own yarn, I was excited to have the opportunity to sit in and learn the process.

I crashed the session recently, sitting alongside nine children from Burlington in the West end of Old Town. When I came in, most were already acquainting themselves with the materials for the class. A large bag of unwashed fleece was emptied on to the floor, carding tools were distributed, and assortments of three different kinds of foot powered spinning wheels were being gingerly handled. Some brightly colored dyed wool on hand spindles with flashing CDs made it all very attractive to us. The children fired questions, excitedly grabbing and feeling, spinning and pulling.

Bev Vavra, Barbara Rush and guest Billie Hinkhouse took turns answering the questions, then slowed the pace down a bit with Barbara’s show and feel display of different types of animal fleece and hair from around the world. The children and I learned about fibers, and why some shrink or mat and why some are better than others for clothes. The kids talked about how hard it must be to shear the sheep and get it all in one piece. Arissa Boyd said she “Had never thought it could come in all one piece. Kinda like a coat.” This particular coat had come from one of Barb’s Wendsleydale sheep.

When the three women walked them through a hands-on demonstration of how to wash fleece, the kids all marveled at how different it was after they put it in hot water for a while, and how clean it got with just water. They put their damp fleece gobs on paper-towels, and then proceeded to learn how to card the already dried fleece from another bag. I watched the kids, and then tried my hand at it when one child moved on to spinning with Billie. It was surprisingly relaxing and the more I did, the more the kids did, the girls sat in a circle, visiting and helped each other, repeating the instructions Bev had given them earlier. Billie took each child next to her, and while they were all interested in seeing how fast the wheel could go, she eventually got them to set a rhythm with their foot and all nine got to spin their freshly carded fleece into yarn. The kids were fully engaged for an hour and a half.

When each of them got through with their fleece, they found other things to do in the hands-on museum at Old Town. Denisse Enriquez is 8 years old, and she volunteers to me that last weeks class was her favorite so far. “Quilting is my favorite.” She showed me a carding board scratch, and I showed her my small cuts on my knuckles, which we both agree are worth it. She said “It would have been hard to be a kid back in pioneer times. They had almost no clothes at all. They only had work and school clothes, and Sunday clothes.”

Evelyn Arrando commented further while she worked at her wheel with Barb’s assistance. “Some people think living in pioneer times would have been boring, but I don’t think so. It’s neat to make something from nothing. Doing this makes me thankful for what I have today.”

I am admittedly jaded, a substitute teacher with two boys, I seldom get to see that sensitive and thoughtful side of them. To hear the third-grade girls exchange thankfulness, I admit to having to hold back a tear and a big grin. The two boys in the class were building Lincoln log houses on the floor, I asked each of them what they enjoyed the most about the afternoon enrichment classes, Danny Philippi said, “My favorite part is getting the wheel set up and keeping it going. How it works is like this, when the fleece gets twisted, it gets stronger.” He then instructed me on how to properly wash, card and finally spin the fleece. I could swear it was word for word from our instructions given earlier by Bev Vavra.

Chris Castillo was intently working on his corrals and house when I asked him what he liked about the afternoons with Pioneer Living, and he said “Some old toys are better than Nintendo,” and with that, he went back to quietly building. Again, the holding back, as I wanted to hug him!

Back at the spinning wheel Paola Enriquez was patiently working on her fleece. “The carding part makes me feel good, except when you scratch yourself. We washed wool earlier and it was really dirty, but it looks a lot better now. The sweaters we could make from it would take a lot of time (to spin it) and then knit it or sew it into something, but it would be worth it and it would be warm.” An older sibling arrived a few minutes into the class, but intently sat on the outside, and then couldn’t help herself and was involved as the rest of the children.

I asked Diana Enriquez while she was concentrating on separating her fleece what her favorite part was she said, with a spark in her eye “Spinning the wheel and making wool fleece into yarn. It’s really cool.” Ah, to be cool to a 12-year-old!

Even grown-ups enjoy the time, and get something out of it; Billie Hinkhouse said “You learn new ways to do old things and shortcuts when you work with kids. This is a fun age.” Barb Rush told me that this was really how Prairie Heritage Arts Association got started. “A few ladies wanted to learn how to spin and weave, and they couldn’t find anyone to teach classes, so we taught ourselves.” Everything from buying the sheep, care of them, sheering and processing the fibers into yarn and into projects.

Now, Prairie Heritage Arts Association’s passion is passing that on. Bev Vavra is a quiet but powerful person; the kids are magnetized when she speaks with them. When she explained the next week’s events, the kids all bubbled with excitement as they snacked on cookies and visited with the ladies.

Even in the age of technology, where our 8-year-olds do a better job of programming the remote than we can, it is really refreshing to see children excited about learning about the past, and making those thoughtful comparisons.

Besides spinning fleece, one lesson I learned that afternoon was that anytime you can take the opportunity to pass enthusiasm on, it renews something in you too.

If you would like more information about the Old Town Museum Complex, Prairie Heritage Arts Association or the Pioneer Living after school enrichment program, please contact Bev Vavra at (719) 346-8963.

The Prairie Heritage Arts Association of Burlington, Colo., hosts an after school enrichment class called Pioneer Living every Wednesday afternoon for children ages 8-10 at the Old Town Museum Complex.

I had first heard of the after-school program while substitute teaching at the elementary school, so as an interested parent of 8- and 12-year-old boys, and someone who had never had the opportunity to spin and make my own yarn, I was excited to have the opportunity to sit in and learn the process.

I crashed the session recently, sitting alongside nine children from Burlington in the West end of Old Town. When I came in, most were already acquainting themselves with the materials for the class. A large bag of unwashed fleece was emptied on to the floor, carding tools were distributed, and assortments of three different kinds of foot powered spinning wheels were being gingerly handled. Some brightly colored dyed wool on hand spindles with flashing CDs made it all very attractive to us. The children fired questions, excitedly grabbing and feeling, spinning and pulling.

Bev Vavra, Barbara Rush and guest Billie Hinkhouse took turns answering the questions, then slowed the pace down a bit with Barbara’s show and feel display of different types of animal fleece and hair from around the world. The children and I learned about fibers, and why some shrink or mat and why some are better than others for clothes. The kids talked about how hard it must be to shear the sheep and get it all in one piece. Arissa Boyd said she “Had never thought it could come in all one piece. Kinda like a coat.” This particular coat had come from one of Barb’s Wendsleydale sheep.

When the three women walked them through a hands-on demonstration of how to wash fleece, the kids all marveled at how different it was after they put it in hot water for a while, and how clean it got with just water. They put their damp fleece gobs on paper-towels, and then proceeded to learn how to card the already dried fleece from another bag. I watched the kids, and then tried my hand at it when one child moved on to spinning with Billie. It was surprisingly relaxing and the more I did, the more the kids did, the girls sat in a circle, visiting and helped each other, repeating the instructions Bev had given them earlier. Billie took each child next to her, and while they were all interested in seeing how fast the wheel could go, she eventually got them to set a rhythm with their foot and all nine got to spin their freshly carded fleece into yarn. The kids were fully engaged for an hour and a half.

When each of them got through with their fleece, they found other things to do in the hands-on museum at Old Town. Denisse Enriquez is 8 years old, and she volunteers to me that last weeks class was her favorite so far. “Quilting is my favorite.” She showed me a carding board scratch, and I showed her my small cuts on my knuckles, which we both agree are worth it. She said “It would have been hard to be a kid back in pioneer times. They had almost no clothes at all. They only had work and school clothes, and Sunday clothes.”

Evelyn Arrando commented further while she worked at her wheel with Barb’s assistance. “Some people think living in pioneer times would have been boring, but I don’t think so. It’s neat to make something from nothing. Doing this makes me thankful for what I have today.”

I am admittedly jaded, a substitute teacher with two boys, I seldom get to see that sensitive and thoughtful side of them. To hear the third-grade girls exchange thankfulness, I admit to having to hold back a tear and a big grin. The two boys in the class were building Lincoln log houses on the floor, I asked each of them what they enjoyed the most about the afternoon enrichment classes, Danny Philippi said, “My favorite part is getting the wheel set up and keeping it going. How it works is like this, when the fleece gets twisted, it gets stronger.” He then instructed me on how to properly wash, card and finally spin the fleece. I could swear it was word for word from our instructions given earlier by Bev Vavra.

Chris Castillo was intently working on his corrals and house when I asked him what he liked about the afternoons with Pioneer Living, and he said “Some old toys are better than Nintendo,” and with that, he went back to quietly building. Again, the holding back, as I wanted to hug him!

Back at the spinning wheel Paola Enriquez was patiently working on her fleece. “The carding part makes me feel good, except when you scratch yourself. We washed wool earlier and it was really dirty, but it looks a lot better now. The sweaters we could make from it would take a lot of time (to spin it) and then knit it or sew it into something, but it would be worth it and it would be warm.” An older sibling arrived a few minutes into the class, but intently sat on the outside, and then couldn’t help herself and was involved as the rest of the children.

I asked Diana Enriquez while she was concentrating on separating her fleece what her favorite part was she said, with a spark in her eye “Spinning the wheel and making wool fleece into yarn. It’s really cool.” Ah, to be cool to a 12-year-old!

Even grown-ups enjoy the time, and get something out of it; Billie Hinkhouse said “You learn new ways to do old things and shortcuts when you work with kids. This is a fun age.” Barb Rush told me that this was really how Prairie Heritage Arts Association got started. “A few ladies wanted to learn how to spin and weave, and they couldn’t find anyone to teach classes, so we taught ourselves.” Everything from buying the sheep, care of them, sheering and processing the fibers into yarn and into projects.

Now, Prairie Heritage Arts Association’s passion is passing that on. Bev Vavra is a quiet but powerful person; the kids are magnetized when she speaks with them. When she explained the next week’s events, the kids all bubbled with excitement as they snacked on cookies and visited with the ladies.

Even in the age of technology, where our 8-year-olds do a better job of programming the remote than we can, it is really refreshing to see children excited about learning about the past, and making those thoughtful comparisons.

Besides spinning fleece, one lesson I learned that afternoon was that anytime you can take the opportunity to pass enthusiasm on, it renews something in you too.

If you would like more information about the Old Town Museum Complex, Prairie Heritage Arts Association or the Pioneer Living after school enrichment program, please contact Bev Vavra at (719) 346-8963.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User


News


See more

( function ( body ) { 'use strict'; body.className = body.className.replace( /\btribe-no-js\b/, 'tribe-js' ); } )( document.body );